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When You Stand to Teach & Sit Back Down Taught: Unexpected Lessons in the Trees

When You Stand to Teach & Sit Back Down Taught: Unexpected Lessons in the Trees

Have you ever returned from a conference re-energized, motivated, and encouraged? Wide-eyed, focused, and ready to make some big changes? And then reality sets in and you hit a wall?

The Mount Hermon Christian Writer’s Conference always does that for me. Could be any type of conference though.

Marriage Retreat:

Day 1: I’m going to be way nicer to him now. I don’t care anymore if he leaves clothes all over the floor and forgets to put his dishes in the dishwasher. I’m just grateful to be married.

Day 2: Again? I can’t even get to the dishwasher to clean up after him without walking on clothes. I am not your maid, buddy!

Trade Show / Expo:

Day 1: A million people! A million business cards! Networking opportunities! Freebies! Connections! Chocolate!

Day 2: Why am I here? This is overwhelming. Nobody seems interested in what I have to offer. Who am I kidding? I shouldn’t have spent the money.

It’s firehose learning for sure, and you have to pace yourself. 

Faculty

After volunteering to teach a seminar at Mount Hermon in 2019, I was named official faculty for the March 2020 conference. We all know how that ended though—in a ball of fire before it ever started. *sigh*

In 2021 Mount Hermon permanently canceled the writer’s conference and we all wondered if it would ever be revived. And then along came a veteran attendee who picked up the pieces and volunteered to lead us all back to the trees.

So I applied again through this new private conference, got accepted, and was asked which two seminars I wanted to teach. I immediately knew one would involve newbies. Rookies. First-timers. 

I’ve always had a heart for the brave ones who show up and wing it. And we all remember how it feels to be new, right?

Besides providing me with dozens of valuable connections and unexpected friendships, my vested interest in this conference dates back to the 70s. From eating free meals in the dining room as a toddler to reading Frog and Toad books while standing on the piano bench, it feels beyond familiar. 

Having my dad as the host felt fun when I was young, but when I became a writer I secretly wondered if I could get a book published because of him. Nope. 

As opposed to becoming an actor just because your uncle’s the producer, turns out you actually have to be a good enough writer to get in. 

So I researched the craft, wrote children’s stories, started a blog, went to conferences, learned tips and tricks, started a writers’ group, wrote some more, listened to podcasts, and edited the heck out of everything. Then I wrote some more. 

And somewhere in the midst of it all, years passed. I grew discouraged about my timeline and wondered if I should just put everything in a drawer and go get a job that paid. My husband likes my writing but agreed a paying job sounded great.

When’s the last time you got discouraged? Discouraged enough to quit?

Writing is a solitary practice. And though it’s usually a perfect fit for introverts and usually lonely for extroverts, we all agree it’s fun to gather. For five days every spring I always hear the same thing:

“I found my people!”

“It’s so good to be together!”

4 Authors, 4 Friends: Rachel Dodge, Carrie Talbott, Judy Gordon Morrow, Jill Osborne

Have you found your people?

Go Time

So there I stood: behind a podium with an overactive heart, shuffling papers that didn’t need shuffling, and waiting for conferees to wander in. 

After hours of preparing and practicing, I hoped at least ten people would show. I also hoped my helpful hints and tricks would resonate in both seminars. My gracious classes said they did, but I learned a few things that day.

I can prepare like a crazy person and things can still derail. Class length switched from one hour to 45 minutes without me knowing, and I didn’t have enough time to finish. 

Once I was in the middle of teaching when the fire alarm went off. So we all moved outside and I finished with the screeching in the background. 

I also learned new attendees and faculty had no idea who Dave Talbott was. That fact partly makes my heart hurt and partly doesn’t matter. After leading the conference for four decades, there has been a changing of the guard. 

I know… eras end, people move on, everyone’s replaceable. But it’s still sad. 

The new director is not new to writing—just new to being the leader. She emailed and also said to me more than once, “I want to keep the integrity of the conference. I want to continue your dad’s legacy of service to writers.”

Dave Talbott & Robynne Miller

And at the end of our five-day intensive, I can say she did just that.

Sponsor

Are you a writer? Do you know a writer who would love to publish a book? The first piece of advice almost every author, editor, and agent will give is this: attend a writer’s conference. 

It’s no secret they’re expensive. Bringing in professional authors and editors from publishing houses like Tyndale, Zondervan, Revell, and Baker, along with literary agents, bloggers, and marketing experts from all over the country takes dinero. 

I’ve met writers who saved for years to attend, and those who have been dying to attend but still can’t afford it. If you have some extra income and want to sponsor a writer, I guarantee they’ll be eternally grateful. 

I’ve been the recipient of countless pieces of writing advice. Dozens of tips and tricks have come my way over the years. And finally last week I got two green lights to send in stories for possible publication.

Between being on faculty and receiving “it’s a possibility” offers, I’m still grinning. But I also did and said a couple of dumb things that slapped me harder than Will Smith and brought me right back to earth.

So I’m keeping my head out of the clouds and getting back to work.

Thunder

Speaking of clouds, have you heard of Thunderstorm Artis? He’s a gifted singer and songwriter who placed in the top three on The Voice in 2020. And he was our worship leader for the conference!

Thunderstorm & Faith

Thunder loves Jesus and is married to an adorable Australian girl named Faith. Can you imagine how nerve-racking it would be to sing on The Voice though?

What about you? Are you working on something that makes you nervous? Has your dream taken way longer than you expected?

You could be the encouraging voice another person needs when you share below in the comments. Don’t be shy. I know some of you readers and writers are oozing with valuable lessons. Be brave!

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